1947 Woodward OK Twister- one of 10 worst in history
The April 9, 1947 tornado slashed a deadly 221-mile path across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. “The longest, widest and most destructive tornado ever to occur in this area”

169 dead, 890 injured, and $9,700,000 in estimated property damage.

In Oklahoma, 101 persons died–95 at Woodward, the others in Gage and Shattuck.

In Texas, 68 fatally injured–51 at Higgins and 16 at Glazier. Both towns virtually obliterated.

First reported at 5:52 p.m. CST a half mile southeast of White Deer, Texas and disappeared 6 miles north of Nashville, Kansas (Whitehorse) about 11:00 p.m.

In Woodward, the path was 1.8 miles wide, “one of the widest on record.” Forward movement of the storm averaged 42 miles per hour.

Few reports were received from persons actually observing the tornado due to fog, low clouds, and darkness. It could be seen during lightning flashes. The noise compared to the sound of a fast moving freight train.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 buildings destroyed or damaged, including 626 houses razed and 920 damaged

Woodward – 430 homes demolished and 650 damaged.
Ellis County – 52 homes destroyed and 133 damaged.
Woods County – 25 destroyed and 25 damaged.
Lipscomb County, Texas – 83 homes leveled and 116 damaged.
Hempill County, Texas – 36 flattened and 1 damaged.
1947 Tornado Time Line

April 9, 1947: 5:42 p.m.*

“White Deer…little damage….few injuries”
Richard Bedard, In the Shadow of the Tornado

On the afternoon of April 9, 1947, the chilly, cold air of the Siberian Express met the warm, moist air of the Gulf of Mexico in the Texan Panhandle south of Amarillo. Weather forcasts had correctly predicted showers and thunderstorms. Rain began to fall in waves. About 5:42 a tornado dropped from the rolling clouds. The funnel followed the railroad tracks into White Deer, Texas, where it scattered the cars of a slow-moving freight train. The men working on the new grain elevator scrambled for safety. A few folks were left bruised and battered as outbuildings became kindling before the funnel lifted. The storm followed the Santa Fe tracks, out of town, headed northeast.

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7:14 p. m.

“I started looking for Glazier, Texas, but the only building still standing was a filling station on the highway”
Roy L. Thrush, TWA pilot, 2:25 a. m., April 10, 1947

In the prairie country through which the storm now passed, eyewitnesses noted five spinning tornado columns. The storm had evolved into a mulit-vortex killer, with winds estimated at two-hundred-mile-an-hour winds. Still headed northeast. It missed Pampa, going 5 miles to the north. Miami, and Canadian escaped as well, but north of Canadian, it claimed its first life.
Glazier, population 200, was not so lucky. About 7:14 p. m. the storm cut a half-mile-wide swath through town. Seventeen died. (It is impossible to get an exact number of deaths. We have relied on research by Don Burgess for our figures.) Tradition holds that one building survived at Glazier. It is variously identified as a filling station, the small, concrete jail, or a two-story school — with one story left standing.
Forty-three minutes later the storm reached Higgins, Texas, population 750. By now, the storm was cutting a mile-and-a-half-wide path. Only the telephone exchange, bank and school building survived in the business district. Fifty-one people died. When gas mains exploded, flames took the theater, grocery store, pool hall, newspaper office. Contemporary newspaper accounts indicate nothing was habitable after the strom.

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8:00 p. m.

“In the darkness of Wednesday evening, April 9, 1947, the most terrifying storm of all known time tore through what is probably the most populous and certainly the most productive part of Ellis County.”
Gage Record, April 17, 1947

Sixty-nine people were either already dead in Texas from the storm, or would die from their injuries. More than two hundred had been injured. Damage estimates? One-and-a-half million dollars.
The storm continued toward the northeast. About 8 p. m., it crossed the state line into Oklahoma, north of Arnett. Flames from Higgins had already alerted Arnett area residents to the serious situation there. The funnels missed Arnett, went south of Shattuck, Gage, and Fargo, thus all Ellis County towns escaped. The storm did damage or destroyed some 200 homes and 300 outbuildings.
Near Shattuck, two died; south of Gage, six. Forty-two were injured along the damage path which was now two-miles wide. By 8:21, the storm was almost due east of Gage. Woodward, population 5,500, was twenty miles away.

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8:44 p. m.

“It’s worse than Manilla.”
Bernard E. Dunlap, World War II veteran

The multiple vortex storm, with five or six tornadoes, cut a swath 1.8 miles wide through Woodward. The tornadoes were on the ground continuously for 100 miles during the storm’s 221-mile-long journey toward the northeast. Tradition holds that the storm went from White Deer, Texas, to White Horse, Oklahoma. The storm system actually fizzled in Kingman County, Kansas. It had taken its last life in Woodward County. At White Horse, were 30 were injured, the storm still had a damage path one-mile wide.
At Woodward, approximately 100 were dead, or would die from their injuries. Seven hundred were injured. One hundred city blocks lay in shambles, with four hundred and forty homes gone, 700 damaged.
Recovery began immediately.
Crawl out of the rubble. Organize. Find your family. Find the injured. Find the dead. Get word to Mooreland, Shattuck, Seiling, Enid and Oklahoma City that Woodward is hurt. “We need doctors, nurses, everything.”
The world responded. The Red Cross, theSalvation Army, the Mennonite Brethern, the United States Army, the list is endless.

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“It will take us five years to rebuild.”
Alex Geismar, Vice President, Bank of Woodward

TODAY: Clock Running
Years after the storm, you could drive through Woodward and see the storm’s path where new construction met the old. All events were dated as having happened before or after THE STORM.
That division between old and new, before or after, faded in a half century. It has taken time for the physical and emotional scars to heal, to be able to remember and talk about April 9, 1947. This had not happened by the 25th anniversary of the storm. An exihibit at Woodward’s Carnegie Library was greeted with indifference. Few came to see it. “Folks want to forget that tornado,” the librarian said.
Today, Woodward has recovered, physically, more than double its 1947 population. Woodward is a trade center for a 100-mile radius. It is also a place where folks watch the clouds a bit closer…and remember their date with Oklahoma’s deadliest tornado.

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*Times are based on research by Richard Bedard.

152 KILLED, 85 IN WOODWARD
1,000 INJURED BY TORNADO.

Furious Storm Smashes Four State, Texas Towns

Woodward East Side Is Leveled

The Tornado struck the southwest corner of Woodward.

Traveling northeast, it devastated the area west of the Katy tracks and south of Main street. Hitting the highschool building at the corner of Oak and Ninth, the storm angled east to Fifth street and north to the North Canadian River.

Included in the area was the west end of the business district which was destroyed. Every store on Main street was damaged as far east as Fourth

The entire industrial and wholesale area was heavily damaged and much of it was destroyed.

The twister hit at 8:42 p. m. By 9 o’clock rescue crews were searching the piles of broken lumber that housed over a third of the city’s population less than half an hour before.

Thursday morning Woodward was a stunned city. At noon residents were just beginning to see what has happened. The morgues were full and additional dead were being brought in as they were found in the debris.

Estimates of injured ran well over 1,000 but no definite check had been made. Many injured were rushed to hospitals at Mooreland, Shattuck, Fairview, Watonga and to Oklahoma City. Some were taken to Clinton or Elk City over mud-covered roads.

Work of identifying dead and injured was slow. Many were badly disfigured and lack of water made it impossible even to wash the injured.

A 17-year-old youth enterd a funeral home in this tornado striken city Thursday.

“Have you got my daddy?” he asked the attendant. They looked and found daddy – A. J. Warriner – amoung the dead.

The lad straightened his shoulders, “Thanks,” he said. “Now all I’ve got to do is find my mother.”

Summary

An estimated 152 persons were killed, more than 1,000 injured, and millions of dollars in property damage was caused by a tornado that ripped the northeastern Texas Panhandle and northwestern Oklahoma Wednesday night.

The toll by towns:
WOODWARD, OK. – 85 killed, 1,000 injured, guards set up to prevent looting. Fire followed tornado, but torrential rains helped firemen extinquish flames. Power, light failed, and emergency generators used. Red Cross mobilized. Streets of town (population 5,500) littered by debris. One-third of town levelled.

HIGGINS, Texas: – 24 killed, 150 injured. Town (750 population) levelled except for telephone exchange, bank and school building, all brick. Two blocks of business district destroyed by fired, brought under control early Thursday. Rubble blocks traffic, bulldozer sent to clear streats.

GLAZIER, Texas – 8 killed, 40 injured in village (200 population), only one building left standing. Injured being treated at Canadian. Vigilantes formed.

WHITE DEER AND COBURN, Texas – also hit, but no death toll.

Doctors, Medicine Flown to Leveled Area: Mighty Wind Cuts 100-Mile Path
Death snatched the lives of 152 persons at it rode a tornado path 100 miles wide thru the world’s richest wheat and cattle country Wednesday night.

More than 1,000 were trampled, twisted, and broken by the force of the furious wind. Estimates placed property damage in the millions.

Bulldozers and rescue crews Thrusday combed the wreckage left in Woodward, hardest hit of three Oklahoma and as many Texas cities, and the know dead in Woodward reached 85 at noon.

Gage reported 2 dead; Higgins, Texas 24, and Glazier, Texas, 8. Shattuck, where many of the dead and injured were taken, was said not to have been struck by the storm.

Early estimates indicated at least 100 square blocks of Woodward either were leveled or so badly damaged as to be unsafe.

In sharp contrast to the blackness of the storm, which struck at 8:40 p. m., Thursday’s sun beamed brightly on the scenes of wreckage, while frantic survivors hurried from hospitals to aid stations and mortuaries seeking word of missing children, relatives and friends.

Planes bring Doctors and medicine. By noon, the scene had become orderly as the methodical search for dead and injured went on. Airplains roared overhead to bring in doctors, nurses, medical and food supplies. Highway machinery was clearing streets. Scores of ambulances moved with screaming sirens to carry their burdens of injured to hospitals in other cities. The Red Cross was feeding rescue workers and homeless from field kitchens set up throughout the city.

The writhing, twisting tordado first dipped near White Deer, Texas, and roared northeastward through Glazier, population 200, and Higgins, population 750. Then it crossed the Okalhoma line to strike Gage and Woodward before lifting.

Stunned residents of the Texas and Oklahoma cities had almost no warning of the approach of diaster. It was first a deafening roar, cut by brilliant lighting flashes which illuminated qrotesque forms of lifted buildings before they were blown apart in midair, their debris twisting and whirling with the shatterd limbs of uprooted trees.

Two persons known to have been together in Glazier were lifted by the storm, and their bodiess were found Thrusday two miles apart, broken and twisted as the timbers of buildings which covered them.

Labor Squabble Slows Phone Repair. In the midst of the fight for open communication lines to summon aid for the stricken cities, the Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., announced it had rejected a union offer to send striking telephone operators and repair crews back to their jobs in the stricken area because the union specified as a condition that the company call off supervisory employes now manning switchboards, and that the union be left to determine what constitutes an emergency in the five-state area where the company operates.

Despite the strike, emergency long distance lines were manned, and, with the aid of state highway patorl radio, cries for help from the devastated area were heard and heeded so fast that withing a short time emergency forces of both Oklahoma and Texas were converging on the scenes of death and wreckage.

Using bulldozers to clear away the debris which Wednesday was the thriving center of one of the world’s richest wheat and livestock producing areas, resuce crews at Woodward were divided into groups of five to dig through building wreckage for other possible victims of the storm.

It appeared certain that no accurate lists of dead and injured would be available for hours. Hospitals and aid stations were jammed, and injured victims were being sent out by train and airplane for treatment at hospitals in nearby cities.

A Santa Fe railroad special train moved dozens of the injured to an Alva hospital. A U. S. Army C-54 suttled back and forth between Woodward and Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Times – Thursday, Aril 10, 1947
The Spirit of Heroes
Unselfish Acts of Countless Citizens Started
Woodward On Its Way Back To Prosperity

There were many heroes the night of April 9, 1947. Several of them were utility company employees, the most noteworthy of whom was Irwin Walker, who died in the wreckage of the Eighth Street OG&E plant. It was Walker who threw the main switch in the power plant, cutting of electricity to thousands of feet of lines that were either dragging the ground or blowing wildly in the wind.

Many more people would have lost their lives if Walker hadn’t gotten to that switch when he did.

After his funeral, OG&E and Walker’s fellow workers took out a full page ad in the Woodward County Journal to pay tribute to his courageous action. They vowed to see that Woodward would be rebuilt and to participate in that rebuilding.

Woodward’s contingent of telephone workers were among those who came to the aid and comfort of tornado victims. Jim Feese, who worked for the phone company for 35 years, remembers that it was lineman Glenn Cochran who found an open line at the section line corner that is now 22nd and Downs. Cochran climbed the pole, hooked up his magneto tester phone and managed to call Oklahoma City with the first news of the disaster.

In April 1946 Feese was working for Young Furniture, a job he held before he left for military service. Under the law, Feese was guaranteed the job when he returned and so on April 9, he was delivering a refrigerator to the Mademoiselle Beauty Shop on Sixth Street.

As he walked through the shop, he spied a young woman, who he said was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. Mrs. Sills, the shop owner, told Feese the young woman was Reva Valentine.

Introducing himself, Feese invited Miss Valentine “to the show” that evening. She told him she was going steady, but he persuaded her, going steady or not, to go out on a date with him.

The movie they saw was “Rage in Heaven” at the Woodward Theater. The couple sat about four rows from the back. Along about 8:40, said Feese, the sound went off and the audience started stomping its feet, yelling in protest and clapping. He took advantage of the confusion to put his arm around Reva and kiss her.

As he did, the tornado sturck with full force, plunging the theater into darkness with a roar that drowned out all of the crowd noise.

“I said to myself, any girl that can kiss like that, I’m going to marry,” said Feese.

It was a story that made the wire services, said Jim and Reva Feese. They will celebrate their 50 years of marriage May 15.

A few months after, Feese went to work for AT&T’s Bell Telephone Co. Ironically one of his co-workers was Marcella Holmes, who was also in the Woodward Theater the night of April 9.

“I got to the show late and had to sit up in the balcony,” said Holmes, now Marcella Ruttman.

Fifty years ago, it was common for the Woodward Theater to be completely or almost completely sold out of seats, even on a Wednesday night. The most devout members of the community always went to Wednesday night prayer meeting in their respectives churches but everyone else went to the show.

Ruttman was a telephone operator, one of dozens of mostly young women who said “Number, please,” in the Woodward switchboard office.

In the days before dial phones and dial tones, every number had to be spoken into the receiver and a human being – almost always female – connected your phone to the number you asked for.

For two days, the Telephone Workers of America were on strike for highter wages or better working conditions; it is not known now what the strike was all about.

Ruttman was one of the striking employees, who were told not to go to work until the union and Bell Telephone had settled their differences.

Members of management, including Ruttman’s two older sisters, were providing operator service during the strike of the rank and file.

“When the lights went out, we started to leave the show,” said Ruttman. “An usher by the name of Blackie had a flashlight and was shining it so we could get down the stairs. Then someone said we needed to stay inside because of the storm, so I stood on the stairs until it was over.”

Both Ruttman and Feese said by the time they could get outside, the sky and streets were lighted by the great fires that were burning up Sharp Lumber Yard and Big 7 Electirc Co.

Jim Feese took his date Reva home to the southeast side of town where there was little or no damage. He then went to check on his parents and found them safe. Then he and his brother Hubert drove down the street to the hospital in the 1400 block on Fourth and saw the dead and injured being brought in.

“I then went back to Main Street.” Feese said.

“I ran into Zip Roberts, who owned a sporting goods store on Main. He and I walked through the broken windows of the C. R. Anthony store and went back to the bedding department, where we carried out all the blankets we could find.”

Feese and Roberts took the “stolen” blankets to the hospital and by then, Feese said, the sight of all the people lying on the porch, on the grass in front, and on the porches of neighborhood houses was incredible.

Through the night, Feese worked with dozens of others, picking up bodies to take to the mortuaries, or the injured to any place where they could be taken care of.

“I found one of the little Fiel twins,” said Feese. “We took him to Armstrong’s (funeral home)”

Marcella Holmes Ruttman went back to work. Strike or no strike, she knew what her duty was.

“No one called us back to work,” she said. “We just all showed up.”

When we got to the telephone office (on Ninth Street a half block north of Main), we discovered there weren’t any lines open but the linemen were putting them back in service as fast as they could. Over time, we had more and more lines. One of the first was run to Young Furniture for the use of the Red Cross.”

In a poignant note, Ruttman told of Russel Story, a telephone company supervisor, who was in charge of the office during the night. When the tornado struck, she said, Story herded all the workers in the building into the middle hallway, where they crouched down and were sheltered from flying debris.

At the same moment, Story’s son and only child, Dean Story, was killed in the band building of Woodward High School, where he was practicing with a brass quartet for the Enid Tri-State Festival competition that was to start the following day.

In the weeks that followed, the Telephone Workers of America learned that the Woodward local had broken the strike. It cancelled the entire Woodward membership to punish them for not following union orders.

“Someone said, ‘We’ll look into it’ and never did,” said Feese, but nothing the union could do would ever dim the valor displayed by the Woodward telephone operators and linemen when they went back to work after the tornado.

Between 1947 and 1997, the telephone compnay as it was then has ceased to exist. New laws broke Bell Telephone up into seperate regional companies. Operators like Marcella Ruttman no longer plug lines into switchboards manually. The switchboard office is gone from Woodward, where at one time, 60 women worked four shifts, saying “Number, please.”

Today, communications are completely different in disasters,” said Feese. “Not only do we have warning systems and scientific weather forecasting, but the telephone system itself is safer from disaster. Underground cables can’t be blown down.”

Both Ruttman and Feese expressed great pride in having been telephone workers.

“The phone company gave us a lot of incentives,” said Ruttman. And even since I’ve retired, the company has treated me well.”

If House Bill 1850 passes the Oklahoma Legislature, allowing telephone compaines to set rates competitivley, “it’s only going to get better,” said Feese.

Ruttman and Feese worked together for over 30 years – they have more stories to tell of other disasters besides the tornado.

But a bronze plaque says best how they and their coworkers responded on April 9, 1947:

“To the employees of Southwestern Bell Company at Woodward, Okla., by the national committee of award of the Theodore N. Vail Memorial Fund, in recognition of their skill, courage and devotion to duty in performing acts of public service during the tornado, April 1947.”

The plaque is on the wall in the vestibule of the present Southwestern Bell building on Texas Avenue.

The building is now closed.

Red Cross Relief

In the days and months after the 1947 tornado, the American Red Cross provided aid that helped tornado victims get back into the “real world.” It picked up people, dusted them off, and gave them assistance in starting back to work.

Some of the Red Cross’ help was:

–Building contracts. The Red Cross paired homeless families with ‘building advisors’ to decide how to rebuild a demolished house. The Red Cross paid the reconstructin cost upon completion of the work.

–Household goods. The Red Cross gave $183,029 worth of household goods to 547 families.

Woodward News – Thursday, April 9, 1992
Reprint of a story that appeared in the Woodward Daily Press on April 14, 1947.

Burial Of Dead Began Saturday With Two Infants
By Carter Bradley – United Press Correspondent

April 12: Woodward began to bury its dead Saturday in a cold, driving rainstorm as the ravaged city’s tornado death list increased to eighty-four, making the total of 147 killed in the Texas-Oklahoma storm area.

Despite the rain, thousands of outsiders crowded into Woodward. Most of them relatives of the dead and of the approximately 400 persons in hospitals

The first funeral was a committal service at Elmwood cemetery for Ray Lee Harper, 4, and Henry C. Harper, Jr., 2 months.

“Let not your heart be troubled: Ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father’s house are many mansions. It if were no so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

Birg. Edward Laity of the Salvation Army quoted the passages from St. John as the plain box caskets were lowered into the muddy earth. The parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry C. Harper, two other relatives, and three grave diggers were the only persons present.

Laity read the scriptures after Ernest Wixson, another Salvation Army official had sung, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” His voice rang out solid with the patter of a hard rain as the only accompaniment.

The Salvation Army official then returned to Emergency Control Headquarters to continue as director of the identification section.

Warren Freeman, an Amarillo florist and two aides, Paul Dollarhide and Jim Wright of Amarillo, came to Woodward Saturday night to make sprays for funerals of the tornado victims held in Woodward.

Working from a truck in the driveway of Armstrong’s Funeral Home, the men made a spray for every burial. They used flowers contributed by John Furrows, wholesale florist at Guthrie, and Colorado flower growers of Denver.

Many other victims died from injuries in the weeks and months to come. The final death count in Woodward was to stand at 104.

Note: Reports of final death count varies. Spelling of names not always correct in newspaper accounts. Conflicting reports make it difficult to determine the acutal death count and all the victims. Some listed below could have been victims in other counties and buried in a cemetery in that county.

Can’t be certain this is 100% correct because of conflicting sources and unreliable newspaper lists.
Lives lost in the Tornado of “47”
ATTWELL, Alfred 2
ATWELL, J. M.
BAKER, Thomas Ivy., age 76 1
BALL, Hallie
BEASLEY, Darlene
BRUMLEY, Roy Albert 1
CATLETT, Cecil John 1
CATTLET, Johnny Gottschalk (CATLET)
CATLETT, Raymond 1
CATLETT, Sarah Edith 1
CHANCE, Daniel S. 1
COOLEY, Betty Lorene 4
COOMBES, Lorenzo Bright, age 89
COSBY, Betty
CROFT, Mrs. H. O.
CROWE, Ethel E. (Mrs. Bill CROWL) 1
CROWE, Willaim A. (Bill CROWL) 1
CUNNINGHAM, Carl Douglas 1
DAMRON, Charles †
DAMRON, Paula Gayle 1
DART, Fred W. 1
DART, Lloyd
DAUGHERTY, Ray Dean 1
DAVIS, Ernest Gaylord See Davidson
DAVIS, LaVina
DAVIS, Ward
DAVIDSON, Ernest Gaylord 1
DEID, Thomas Marion, age 76 (DEEDS) 1
DRAKE, Harry
DUBRINSKI, Hattie
DUKE, Robert Harrison
FIEL, Eldeen Bert (Eldon Ray?)
FIEL, Eldine Marie 3
FIEL, Eldon Ray 3
FIEL, Roberta Jean 3
FISKIN, Irene Elizabeth 1
GOBLE, Cleta Mae Croft 1
GEISWIN, Mrs. John
GLACEN, Nelson Owen
GLASS, Clyde
GOTTSCHALK, Johnny
GRAYSON, Milton Owen 1
GRIMM, Beryl
GUSBAR, Lena
HAGEMAN, Anna D. (HAGERMAN) 1
HAGEMAN, John W. (HAGERMAN) 1
HARPER, Henry C., Jr. 1
HARPER, Lou Ellen
HARPER, Monty Lawrence
HARPER, Roy Lea 1
HAWK, Mary (HAWKS) 4
HAYES, Cliff
HAYES, Thomas C. 1
HINGSTON, Georgia Mae 6
HOLCOMB, Kay Frances 1
HOLSTER, Treana Dale
HOULETTE, Sue Ann 1
HUTCHISON, Jimmie Lee 1
HUTCHISON, Olan Leslie 1
IRVIN, Flossie Belle Taylor 1
IRVIN, George Merrill (IRWIN) 1
JOHNSTON, Delores Alice
JORDAN, Grover A. 5
KEESER, Dollie (Mary Eliza Kezer),
“Woodward’s first Madam” age 89 1
KOLLAR, Pauline Franics 1
KNIGHT, Louis Raymond 6
KREGER, Glendola 1
KREGER, Kathryn 1
KRUGER, Bill
LAFON, Muriel 1
LAVER, Amanda F. 1
LITTLE, Elizabeth Ann
LONG, Delmer Lee 1
LUCAS, George F. (George Edward LUCAS) 1
LUKES, Albert D. 1
LUKES, Patsy 1
MAIN, Minnie Marie 1
MARSTON, Darla Ann 1
MARSTON, Goldie A. 1
MacLAREN, Merritt Richard (McLaren) 1
MITCH, Thomas Noble
MORGAN, Charles
MORRISON, Mrs. Damon
MORROW, Fred 1
MYERS, Robert T. 1
PANTLE, Gloria L. 1
PIERSON, Florence
POLLARD, Earl Allen 4
POLLARD, Pauline 4
PORTER, Ruth J. 1
POUNDER, Leo
RABE, Dottie Mae 1
REID, Bertha Edith (REED) 1
RIETH, Peter William, age 83
ROSENBROOK, Allbert M. 1
ROSENDALE, Clarence 7
SCHARNHORST, Bessie (SCHORNHORST)
SCHARNHORST, Ruby Carol (SCHORNHORST)
SCHNEIDER, Leon Gene 1
SHIDLER, Beulah Mae 1
SHUTT, A. L.
SHYLER, Beulah
STALETT, Baby
STEED, Cora Ann Nixon, age 83 1
STORY, Elton Dean 1
SWIFT, Mrs. Bill
TRUEBLOOD, Mary
UNIDENTIFIED, Girl
WALKER, Erwin Vincent, age 50 1
WARREN, Laverne
WARRINER, A. J. 1
*WINGATE, Carol Diane (Wingent, Carol I.) 1
WINGENT, Irene Elizabeth 1
WOOD, Sam 1

† Incorrectly reported as a victim, he was flown to Oklahoma City for treatment of severe injuries, but survived. Paula Gayle, his infant daughter, did not survive.
1Elmwood Cemetery
2Dunlap Cemetery
3Gnadenfeld Cemetery
FIEL, Johnny, not listed above
4Mooreland Cemetery
5Persimmon Cemetery
6Praire View Cemetery
7Fargo Cemetery, Fargo, OK

Information taken from Woodward News, The Daily Oklahoman, Woodward Daily Press, Elmwood Cemetery Ledgers (incomplete search)

Ages of Tornado Victims Sought

A list of victims, school-age and younger, of the 1947 tornado that claimed the lives of 104 people is being compiled by the research sub-committee for the 50th anniversary memorial.

One of the research co-chairmen, has asked readers to help with the search for the ages of the people on the list.

“We have discovered the ages of everyone else on the fatality list. These names are the only ones that we are uncertain about.”

The names are:
James Behler
Lorenzo Coombs
Carl Cunningham
Lillie Durell
Catherine Fithian
Irene Grisler
Lou Ellen Harper
Georgia Hingston
Charles Morgan
Thomas N. Mitch
Dottie Rabe
Bertha Reed
Peter Rieth
Al Schutt
Everett Smith
Laverne Warren

The proposed memorial will be erected on the site of Central School, the building that was damaged by the tornado and torn down. Central was located on what is now the south campus of Woodward Middle School.

The memorial will be inscribed with the names of school children and those younger who died in the storm or from injuries sustained in the storm. If those children were living today, they would be between the ages of 50 and 68.

In one of the newspaper accounts of the tornado death toll, there is a fatality listed as Baby Stalett. No other casualty list has that name.

“We have not been able to find any information at all about that child, ” a spokesperson said. “It might have been a misprint, a name misspelled that was different in all of the other lists.”

An unveiling ceremony will be held on April 9, the 50th anniversary of the disaster.

An article appearing in the Woodward News, Wednesday, January 15, 1997, by staff writer Helen Mossman.

–Farmers assistance. The Red Cross replaced implements, tools and livestock. It helped 60 families by donating $19,598 to help with the bills.

–Merchant awards. The Red Cross designated $14,212 to help get small-time businessmen, such as plumbers and carpenters, to get the individuals back to their self-supporting status.

Information compiled by Della Stump of the American Red Cross.

You can go to this URL for the pictures, and more information. There, these pictures can be clicked on and enlarged.

http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ok/county/ellis/victim.html

5 damaged.
Lipscomb County, Texas – 83 homes leveled and 116 damaged.
Hempill County, Texas – 36 flattened and 1 damaged.
1947 Tornado Time Line

April 9, 1947: 5:42 p.m.*

“White Deer…little damage….few injuries”
Richard Bedard, In the Shadow of the Tornado

On the afternoon of April 9, 1947, the chilly, cold air of the Siberian Express met the warm, moist air of the Gulf of Mexico in the Texan Panhandle south of Amarillo. Weather forcasts had correctly predicted showers and thunderstorms. Rain began to fall in waves. About 5:42 a tornado dropped from the rolling clouds. The funnel followed the railroad tracks into White Deer, Texas, where it scattered the cars of a slow-moving freight train. The men working on the new grain elevator scrambled for safety. A few folks were left bruised and battered as outbuildings became kindling before the funnel lifted. The storm followed the Santa Fe tracks, out of town, headed northeast.

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7:14 p. m.

“I started looking for Glazier, Texas, but the only building still standing was a filling station on the highway”
Roy L. Thrush, TWA pilot, 2:25 a. m., April 10, 1947

In the prairie country through which the storm now passed, eyewitnesses noted five spinning tornado columns. The storm had evolved into a mulit-vortex killer, with winds estimated at two-hundred-mile-an-hour winds. Still headed northeast. It missed Pampa, going 5 miles to the north. Miami, and Canadian escaped as well, but north of Canadian, it claimed its first life.
Glazier, population 200, was not so lucky. About 7:14 p. m. the storm cut a half-mile-wide swath through town. Seventeen died. (It is impossible to get an exact number of deaths. We have relied on research by Don Burgess for our figures.) Tradition holds that one building survived at Glazier. It is variously identified as a filling station, the small, concrete jail, or a two-story school — with one story left standing.
Forty-three minutes later the storm reached Higgins, Texas, population 750. By now, the storm was cutting a mile-and-a-half-wide path. Only the telephone exchange, bank and school building survived in the business district. Fifty-one people died. When gas mains exploded, flames took the theater, grocery store, pool hall, newspaper office. Contemporary newspaper accounts indicate nothing was habitable after the strom.

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8:00 p. m.

“In the darkness of Wednesday evening, April 9, 1947, the most terrifying storm of all known time tore through what is probably the most populous and certainly the most productive part of Ellis County.”
Gage Record, April 17, 1947

Sixty-nine people were either already dead in Texas from the storm, or would die from their injuries. More than two hundred had been injured. Damage estimates? One-and-a-half million dollars.
The storm continued toward the northeast. About 8 p. m., it crossed the state line into Oklahoma, north of Arnett. Flames from Higgins had already alerted Arnett area residents to the serious situation there. The funnels missed Arnett, went south of Shattuck, Gage, and Fargo, thus all Ellis County towns escaped. The storm did damage or destroyed some 200 homes and 300 outbuildings.
Near Shattuck, two died; south of Gage, six. Forty-two were injured along the damage path which was now two-miles wide. By 8:21, the storm was almost due east of Gage. Woodward, population 5,500, was twenty miles away.

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8:44 p. m.

“It’s worse than Manilla.”
Bernard E. Dunlap, World War II veteran

The multiple vortex storm, with five or six tornadoes, cut a swath 1.8 miles wide through Woodward. The tornadoes were on the ground continuously for 100 miles during the storm’s 221-mile-long journey toward the northeast. Tradition holds that the storm went from White Deer, Texas, to White Horse, Oklahoma. The storm system actually fizzled in Kingman County, Kansas. It had taken its last life in Woodward County. At White Horse, were 30 were injured, the storm still had a damage path one-mile wide.
At Woodward, approximately 100 were dead, or would die from their injuries. Seven hundred were injured. One hundred city blocks lay in shambles, with four hundred and forty homes gone, 700 damaged.
Recovery began immediately.
Crawl out of the rubble. Organize. Find your family. Find the injured. Find the dead. Get word to Mooreland, Shattuck, Seiling, Enid and Oklahoma City that Woodward is hurt. “We need doctors, nurses, everything.”
The world responded. The Red Cross, theSalvation Army, the Mennonite Brethern, the United States Army, the list is endless.

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“It will take us five years to rebuild.”
Alex Geismar, Vice President, Bank of Woodward

TODAY: Clock Running
Years after the storm, you could drive through Woodward and see the storm’s path where new construction met the old. All events were dated as having happened before or after THE STORM.
That division between old and new, before or after, faded in a half century. It has taken time for the physical and emotional scars to heal, to be able to remember and talk about April 9, 1947. This had not happened by the 25th anniversary of the storm. An exihibit at Woodward’s Carnegie Library was greeted with indifference. Few came to see it. “Folks want to forget that tornado,” the librarian said.
Today, Woodward has recovered, physically, more than double its 1947 population. Woodward is a trade center for a 100-mile radius. It is also a place where folks watch the clouds a bit closer…and remember their date with Oklahoma’s deadliest tornado.

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*Times are based on research by Richard Bedard.

 
 
 
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